Student Athlete Discovers Potentially Life-Threatening Heart Condition During School Project

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Young athletes are generally thought to be the pinnacle of health, even though they often face increased risk of injury. While health risks associated with concussions suffered by young athletes continues to be a concern for both parents and coaches, a less obvious — but no less dangerous — condition is garnering attention in Kansas City, MO.

New evidence revealed that a simple test may save a child’s life, especially those who participate in athletics.

A new program beginning to make its way through schools throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area is helping to detect potentially fatal heart problems. The inspiration for the program came after a local student discovered he had a heart condition during a school project.

Samsson Destahun, a runner and tennis player, was tasked with marketing an upcoming heart health and testing event at Saint Luke’s Hospital North.

“I decided to sign up for it because we had such a low number of participants,” Destahun said.

The test ultimately determined Destahun suffered from a potentially dangerous electrical problem with his heart, called Wolfe Parkinson White Syndrome, which causes his heart to beat faster due to an extra circuit.

“As soon as they found out, they said I can’t have any more physical activity,” Destahun said.

Within the last 10 years, Saint Luke’s North Hospital has tested the hearts of over 5,000 athletes ranging from young high school athletes to seasoned National Football League professionals. The hospital has said these tests have been successful in detecting life-threatening abnormalities like Destahun’s in nearly 1% of participants.

“In another 2%, we find something important,” said Dr. Anthony Magalski, of Saint Luke’s Mid-America Heart Institute. “It may not be life-threatening, but it’s important to know.”

These tests typically cost thousands of dollars, but community support from donors such as Rick Worth allows Saint Luke’s North Hospital to perform screenings for only $60 per student.

“At a very young age, my oldest son actually collapsed on the football field,” said Worth. “We had the resources to have his heart checked, but there are a lot of kids out there that don’t.”

Following the test, Destahun underwent a procedure to repair his heart condition, and has since been cleared to participate in all physical activity.

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